I never lived a single day of my life in or near 1929 but because my grandmother was a child of the depression, it touched every aspect of my home life growing-up. I think about this all the time when I consider our current beliefs about how children should be raised so that they should never know hard times. This was not how people thought about child rearing when I came of age. They may not have believed in showing their vulnerabilities but the adults I knew certainly believed that children should know of their sacrifices. How much something cost or how long it took to acquire was not a secret. Do you know how much water costs? was asked of me anytime I left the water running in the sink for too long. Do you know how much electricity costs? was the question put to me if I left lights turned on or kept the refrigerator door open while I searched for something to eat. It seemed like I was always being asked to think about how much money it cost to live.
I wonder why people don’t make their children think about expenses anymore? A friend recently shared with me that a year before she was planning to apply for college, her parents sat her down and explained how much money they had to spend on her education. That total included transportation costs, books, and incidentals. My friend teaches at a private college now and was reflecting on her own experiences upon encountering current students who seem surprised that their parents are struggling to afford their tuition. One student confessed that her parents asked her to transfer to a less expensive school but the student refused because “she was enjoying her experience.” I never would have been given that kind of choice when I needed my mother’s money. My mother, like my friend’s parents, would have simply told me what I was going to do.
I liked those days of parenting better than the ones we’re living through now. I don’t think that children should tell adults what to do. The things my husband reports students saying to him just appall me. In thinking about his experiences in the classroom alongside other stories that I have heard about the things young people say and do who have not been made to respect the work and sacrifices of adults, I have come up with a list of things adults should considering telling children to either establish or reinforce the hierarchy:
1. No (you do not have to say yes to your children).
2. Hush (you can make your children stop talking).
3. Put that X away (your children are not entitled to video games, toys, etc).
4. Read this.
5. Do X (your children need to do as they are told).
6. Answer me.
7. Come here.
8. Go there.
So what do you think of my list? What would you add?